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My confusion about his famous 'dislike' of Kubrick's film

Discussion in 'The Shining (1980)' started by Gerald, Apr 28, 2014.

  1. fljoe0

    fljoe0 Cantre Member

    When a novel is adapted for film, the director (or screenwriter) has to cut out a ton of stuff to get it to fit in the approximate 2hr time frame. I think that is why the novellas work so much better as adaptations. I think 150 pages are about the right length for a movie. So, think about taking The Shining or any other novel and cutting it down to 150 pages (remember the reader's digest condensed books ;-D). I think it is unrealistic to expect a large novel to be faithfully adapted to the big screen.

    One of the best large novel adaptations that I know of was John Irving's, "Cider House Rules." John Irving wrote the screenplay and has commented on how difficult it was for him to cut out such large chunks of his novel. Irving was able to keep the spirit of novel but still lost a lot.

    I believe SK wrote the screenplay for Pet Semetary (correct me if I'm wrong) and I've always liked that adaptation.

    Anyway, I think you just have to view the film and novel as two separate forms. Stanley Kubrick only wanted to make a horror film. He could have cared less about all of the other themes running through The Shining. I love the movie but I certainly understand those that don't. Kubrick was a great visual director and I've always said that I can watch his movies with the sound off and love them.
  2. Gerald

    Gerald Well-Known Member

    What I regret about the remake is that he took the route of the mini-series. I love mini-series, because they have a tempo more similar to books and give you a large canvas. The problem however is the way they are made: they have a tv-ish look that feels very flat, all sharp edges are removed and they all feel samey without much of an original style to them. For horror they work especially bad, because they feel COMFORTABLE and familiar. The only exception I can think of is Hooper's Salem's Lot - the magic of that is that it is actually scary - unlike movies, tv is very rarely scary.

    What I would have loved is that Stephen would have gone the route of Pet Semetary. Find a special director like Mary Lambert and work close with him/her. It would have been difficult for any director or any form to make you forget the images of Kubrick's version, but it would have had a more fair chance than a mini-series.
    Of course because of length you can put more in a mini-series, but The Shining is only 31 pages longer than Pet Sematary, so it wouldn't have to be a problem.

    One of Stephen's main problems with Kubrick's version is that it's cold, while his own work is warmer and more inviting. I think that it's tonally different from the book, yes, but it's still the same story. It's no Lawnmower Man that is something different altogether.
    The genius of Kubrick's version is that the film is basically a haunted house film, and there are loads of those, but it is a haunted house film that is unlike any other ever made in look and feel. The performances of Nicholson and Duvall are heightened (you could say over-the-top if you approach it negatively), but I don't feel you don't care for the characters or story. The setting (or rather the film style) may be abstract, but the people remain real to a degree - again it's just done in a style that is not common for horrorfilms which makes it unique.
  3. Gerald

    Gerald Well-Known Member

    King stated that the first time he watched Kubrick's adaptation, he found it to be "dreadfully unsettling".
    GNTLGNT, Neesy and blunthead like this.
  4. Gerald

    Gerald Well-Known Member

    He wrote the screenplay for Pet Sematary. And just like Kubrick's The Shining there are significant changes, however the spirit is closer to the book. I'm not sure if novella's work better than novels. Misery or The Green Mile were not novella's and worked great. Just like a short story like 1408 can make an excellent long film.
    I think what you say about Irving is more imporant, to not lose the spririt of the book. This is Stephen's criticism of Kubrick, I think he felt this was a case where the spirit was lost - at least for him. This goes to show that the 'spirit' of the book is a highly subjective thing too. We take out of books what we want to take.
  5. fushingfeef

    fushingfeef Uber-in-waiting

    I think one thing that particularly offended King is that certain things seemed to be done arbitrarily, such as the quick death of Halloran. King said of Kubrick, "I think he really wants to make a movie that will hurt people" which some took as a testament to strengths of the horror aspects, but I don't think King meant it that way. Keep in mind SK is a guy who was raised on horror films that followed a pretty standard formula and most of the time the good guy who came to the rescue at the end wasn't simply dispatched with an axe.
  6. blunthead

    blunthead Well-Known Member

    fljoe, in a Q&A following a talk, Michael Crichton described the difficulty transcribing a novel into a screenplay by saying that a novel of 400 pages has to be reduced to 40 pages; consequently, movies and literature are necessarily different art forms. I think, while being unreasonable to assume a faithful screenplay from a full novel, it not impossible for the story to remain essentially intact. It just takes filmmaking genius.

    You're correct, sK did write the screenplay for Pet Sematary. And I completely agree with you about Kubrick's movies in terms of visual appeal. In this sense his are my personal favorites next to Hitchcock's.

    Gerald, though I hear your argument well, remember that sK is not the person who makes certain choices when adaptations are planned. I don't know how much if any influence he was allowed or wanted in terms of the Salem's Lot remake. The decision for a mini-series might've been a safe-or-not assumption that viewers prefer them, or it might've been for financial reasons. And people might be able to overlook or not see at all what you are describing about how mini-series' turn out. I understand the remake was a success, is well-loved by CRs, as well as other critics. Who knows, though, that what you would've done differently wouldn't have been better?

    I must disagree that Kubrick's Shining is the same story as the original due to the fundamental nature of the changes he made. Is Torrance's behavior due to external or internal forces? sK says one thing, Kubrick seems to say another or both. So, in my view, Kubrick's story is flawed because it can't decide what it is. I love the visuals, as expected, but I've always found Kubrick's story unclear and confusing. In this way I feel the movie fails in a very fundamental way.
  7. Gerald

    Gerald Well-Known Member

    Kubrick's intention (according to interviews with his wife) was basically the same as King's: he wanted to make a very scary film. He wanted to make one of the scariest films ever.

    I think what Stephen reacts to also is Kubrick's technicality. Even Kubrick's close co-workers say the technical side was often more interesting to him than the actors (he is similar to Dario Argento in that way, although Argento balances it out with his temperament).
    He clearly didn't like Kubrick as a person; he said he seemed very compulsive to him (I think this is true when you do more than 40 takes of a scene).

    But I think you're right: Stephen said he wanted to see The Shining as a more traditional, standard horrorfilm.
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  8. Gerald

    Gerald Well-Known Member

    I don't know if a story is flawed because it doesn't state out what the viewer or reader is supposed to take from it. This seems a common criticsm towards movies, from viewers as well as film producers. Strangely only someone like David Lynch is 'forgiven' and even loved for his ambiguity, but in a lot of other cases people don't accept it. (And Stephen wanted Lynch (or Cronenberg) for the Carrie remake, so he clearly is not opposed to ambiguity.)

    The question is: can the story not decide what it is, or can the viewer not decide what it is. It depends on whether you see movies as an active or passive artform. The Shining is like a game with the audience: what is real and what not. Ghoststories are often about viewpoints: are the ghosts in the mind of the character or real? The Shining is not different in that respect.

    Whether one finds the approach The Shining takes confusing or not is another matter. I think that, yes, Kubrick's version is flawed in that Nicholson's character seems too far over the edge to begin with, but in every other respect it mostly works for me. The fact that he seems a very crazy (potentially dangerous) man never takes away for me that something is very wrong with the hotel also - as evidenced by a third party in Halloran's conversation with Danny early on.
    Torrance clearly didn't COMPLETELY fall apart before he stayed at the hotel.

    It all depends on how crazy you feel Nicholson is at the start. He seems reasonable during the initial interview and the tour around the hotel with his family. However the film for me moves too quickly to scenes where he is falling apart, this could have been done more gradually. You don't know if the forces are external or internal; but it is clear the place is doing something to him too, you just don't know the character well enough to say how much is caused by which factor. Which is the ambivalence of the film which you either love or dislike - and very much intended by Kubrick.
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  9. Neesy

    Neesy #1 fan (Annie Wilkes cousin) 1st cousin Mom's side

    He may not have meant her portrayal of the woman - I believe he just thought it was a misogynistic way of looking at her character. She was very weak. When he redid "the Shining" later as a film the main female character was much stronger.

    It is weird - last night I was on this thread, then went looking for something related to this. The site I landed on said my computer had viruses, Trojan horses, etc. so I had to quickly do an Alt F4 thingy.

    Then when I did a whole computer scan with my antivirus program there were NO viruses!
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  10. doowopgirl

    doowopgirl very avid fan

    Very well put. I disliked the mini series as it was so badly done and casted. you are so right about Kubricks being a haunted house story but unlike any made before or since.
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  11. blunthead

    blunthead Well-Known Member

    Oh ok, I see. Duvall's character really was portrayed in a classic, submissive way.
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  12. blunthead

    blunthead Well-Known Member

    I'm not saying I think the movie is flawed by not stating something outright. I like subtlety and obscurity as much as any movie lover, even more, I dare say. I just don't agree that Kubrick achieved a good product.

    I think The Shining fails in terms of stimulating the viewer to decide what's s/he's watching. That's my take, anyway. I'd always wondered about certain things in the movie, such that when I started reading sK I chose The Shining first. I was hoping to get some answers. Of course I discovered that sK's story had little if anything to do with whatever Kubrick's amounted to for me.

    The problem I have with Kubrick deciding that Torrance had inner demons which were effecting him simultaneously with the hotel's outer ones is Why have both? It's essentially confusing and unnecessary, and the definition of a work of non-art, if art is defined as including what needs to be there and excluding everything else.

    I do enjoy the movie in certain terms. Kubrick will always be one of my top favorite directors. I usually watch the movie when it's shown on TV.
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  13. Dana Jean

    Dana Jean Dirty Pirate Hooker Moderator

    That's a nice way to put it.
  14. Sunlight Gardener

    Sunlight Gardener Well-Known Member

    I have seen a lot of people gripe that Kubrick left out the hedge animals. I was personally relieved by that fact. I don't think there was any way at the time the movie was made that it wouldn't have looked hokey and ridiculous, so I'm not surprised it was omitted. As for SK's other problems with the movie, I get it. Nicholson seemed one step from being completely off his rocker from the time the opening credits rolled. You were just waiting for the first thing to set him off. I thought he looked liked he already wanted to murder Danny and Wendy in the car on the WAY to the hotel lol.
  15. Dana Jean

    Dana Jean Dirty Pirate Hooker Moderator

    Too bad he didn't.:my_bad:
  16. Sunlight Gardener

    Sunlight Gardener Well-Known Member

    Lol, now THAT is funny. I take it you weren't fans of them.
  17. Dana Jean

    Dana Jean Dirty Pirate Hooker Moderator

    Hmmm, whatever gave you that idea? I mean, shucks, just a beating off to the side of the road, strangle Tony, roll the bodies down the mountain. Jump back in the car, lickety split. He goes to the hotel and we watch him do his thing with the interesting ghost inhabitants of The Overlook.

    (Picture Jack strangling Danny's pointer finger!)
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  18. fljoe0

    fljoe0 Cantre Member

    Some of us love the flick and some of us hate it and I don't think there is a single topic on this site that gets talked about more than this movie.

    Director Sidney Pollack said of this movie, "I'm not sure if I even like it or not but I can't stop watching it."
  19. Dana Jean

    Dana Jean Dirty Pirate Hooker Moderator

    agree. I love the movie.
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  20. Dana Jean

    Dana Jean Dirty Pirate Hooker Moderator

    And I also loved Stephen's mini series version with Steven Weber. I thought he did an outstanding job.
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